Coming into the 2019 season, the Reds had one fairly obvious weakness in the bullpen: they had only one sure-fire left-hander in Amir Garrett. Wandy Peralta and Cody Reed were the other options on the 40-man roster. Buddy Boshers and Ian Krol (Remember them? Didn’t think so.) were brought in on minor-league deals as long shots to make the team.

Ultimately, the Reds signed Zach Duke to a one-year, $2 million deal before spring training. He was supposed to be the LOOGY (left-handed one out guy) out of the bullpen. Duke’s stint in Cincinnati didn’t make it through the first half of the season. Peralta also made the Opening Day roster, but he has never been a shutdown pitcher against lefties. When healthy, he’s dealt with the inconsistency that has plagued him his whole career.

The ineffectiveness of Duke and Peralta has left Garrett to pull a lot of weight against left-handed hitters in critical situations. In medium- and high-leverage situations, no Reds reliever has faced more lefties.

  • Amir Garrett: 56
  • Raisel Iglesias: 53
  • David Hernandez: 40
  • Michael Lorenzen: 37
  • Zach Duke: 21

Garrett has, of course, dominated hitters on both sides of the plate. Lefties have had virtually no chance against him. They’re slashing .197/.287/.254 with a 38.8% strikeout rate. If you prefer expected metrics, he fares equally well in those. Lefties have a .187 xBA, .253 xSLG, and .249 xwOBA when they face Garrett.

With the prized southpaw on the injured list, however, the Reds currently have all right-handers in the ‘pen. Among them, only Jared Hughes (.139/.220/.222) has performed well against left-handed hitters this season, though David Hernandez has strong peripherals (40.0 K%, 3.1 BB%). Raisel Iglesias, Matt Bowman, and Robert Stephenson have been particularly poor against lefties. Peralta may return from the IL as soon as this Friday; he threw an inning in a rehab assignment last week. Again, he’s hardly a solution, as he holds a career 4.76 xFIP and .324 wOBA against left-handers.

Even when Garrett comes back, the Reds need some reinforcements to get the likes of Christian Yelich, Eric Thames, Kyle Schwarber, and Mike Moustakas out. Fortunately, they already have one — and he was one of the pitchers passed over for a big-league job during spring training. (No, it’s not Buddy Boshers.)

Cody Reed has been on the injured list in Triple-A since late May with a sprained MCL. But he’s throwing again, and as of July 4, he was scheduled to start pitching within “a couple of weeks.” When healthy this season, Reed has dominated. In 20.2 innings at Triple-A Louisville, he has a 2.61 ERA, 3.15 FIP, 3.22 xFIP, and 31.3% strikeout rate. He’s thrown another 6.1 innings in the majors and allowed only one run and one walk while striking out seven.

Most importantly, he’s owned lefties. This isn’t a new development, either. Here are his season and career numbers at both levels of professional baseball:

Reed’s repertoire is quite similar to Garrett’s. The latter has a little more velocity, but Reed’s fastball has ticked up as a reliever. In his three outings with the Reds this season, Reed’s fastball averaged 94.3 mph and touched 96.1. Both relievers possess sweeping sliders as their best weapons. Reed’s slider has held major-league lefties to the following in his sporadic stints with the Reds since 2016:

  • .200 BA
  • .191 xBA
  • .250 SLG
  • .294 xSLG
  • .210 wOBA
  • .229 xwOBA
  • 35.9% whiff rate

But the pitch’s effectiveness isn’t exclusive to left-handed hitters. Righties also have a hard time doing much with it (.197 xBA, .345 xSLG, .258 xwOBA). As a reliever, he could potentially feature his slider even more to get hitters on both sides of the plate out consistently. That would only increase David Bell’s flexibility with his bullpen, a luxury he didn’t have with the LOOGY Duke. Garrett has taken this slider-heavy approach, with the breaking ball accounting for nearly 60% of his pitches this season.

Reed has yet to receive an extended shot in the major leagues, largely due to his own performance. He finally seems to be coming into his own as a reliever at 26 years old, and it couldn’t come at a better time for the Reds, who could really use another southpaw in the bullpen. In hindsight, Reed should’ve been in the majors from the beginning of the season. But once he recovers from his knee injury, he’ll hopefully stay with the Reds permanently.

33 Responses

  1. Klugo

    I like Reed’s stuff. Imo, he needs true confidence. Success will bring that.
    I’m not sure I don’t stick LH Wood in the bullpen, too; but I imagine that the Red’s will try to ride that Peralta train once more, when gets off the IL. Our bullpen has been exposed a bit. I’m confident they will make adjustments, too. They have some real pros in that pen. But it will need to be addressed if we intend on competing this year or next.

  2. CFD3000

    The Reds seem to be pretty bad at giving their own prospects a real chance to get established at the major league level. Many who seem to have great potential – Reed, Ervin, VanMeter – languish as they’re offered occasional cameos. Even Winker seems stuck in the Catch 22 of a platoon role – isn’t allowed to hit against lefties because he hasn’t learned to hit lefties. Yet others – Peraza and Billy Hamilton and to a lesser extent Robert Stephenson – are the most obvious recent examples – keep playing and playing and playing in spite of consistently lackluster performance. So I’m hoping the Reds really need Cody Reed. I think he can be a huge asset to the team, relieving or starting. He certainly appears to be maturing and gaining confidence. His raw skills are plenty good enough to excel against major league hitters. And he’s young and under team control. Get healthy Cody – you may be just what the Reds need right now.

    • Doug Gray

      Robert Stephenson made 4 whole appearances for the Reds in 2018. They weren’t just giving him opportunity after opportunity while lacking performance.

      I’d argue that Phillip Ervin and Josh VanMeter don’t have “great potential”. Ervin might be a fringe starter. I’m more intrigued by VanMeter right now, and wouldn’t mind seeing him be given a month where he gets 5-6 starts a week. But great potential? That seems like a real stretch. Starting player potential? Sure.

      • daytonnati

        I think when Stephenson closed out 2017 with the strong September, he felt he had earned a spot in the rotation. Coming to Spring Training the next year, he learned that September didn’t mean anything. I think it messed with his confidence. Just as sending Amir Garrett back to the minors after several strong starts messed with HIS confidence when he returned. BobSteve started pitching scared. And to a certain extent, I think the same thing has happened to Peraza. He leads the team in hits last year, plays solid D (not great, but solid) and comes into this year thinking he has proven himself, as well, but no. He plays scared now too.

      • CFD3000

        Doug I’ll grant your point on Stephenson (though I did say “to a lesser extent”, and perhaps “great” potential is too subjective and a stretch. But the larger point is this – I think the Reds are too slow to give real playing time to prospects, and end up hindering possible development (Ervin, VanMeter, Winker) but on the other end too slow to admit that a prospect isn’t panning out (Peraza and Hamilton and Stephenson). IMHO if they come up they should play. Let the veteran role players man the bench. But if they do get several months or a season of opportunity and don’t show signs of improvement and an ability to really contribute, move on. Some do deserve a longer leash, especially pitchers, but I get frustrated when Peraza continues to start and contribute little, while JVM continues to sit, and languish.

      • Matt WI

        I’m with Doug… while expectations can be exceeded, it’s hard to think of a team that would deploy Ervin and VanMeter as regular starters as being particularly competitive. At best we’re talking maybe a Chris Heisey type, right? Which has value, but let’s not overstate that value. I’m not sure Ervin even has the power to be a Heisey.

        The notable exception to this comment is that I would rather see either of those two compared to Jose Perza in the outfield.

    • Klugo

      It seems like you kinda want it both ways. The kids that are getting their chances are getting too much. The kids that aren’t, deserve more. I gotta trust the coaches on this one. They see them all the time, up close and personal.

      • Roger Garrett

        I think it points to the inconsistentcy more then anything.The truth is all of the players mentioned and many many more are still here.Which is even more telling for me.It points to an organization that doesn’t know what they have or just falls in love with everybody and is reluctant to move them.Bob Steve was out of options and hurt in the spring and he just got a roster spot.Reds anoint players then throw them away but not really they just send them down as long as they have options.Big reasons why they are where they are at today and will stay unless they change.

    • Keith

      That’s the same Peraza that led the team in hits last year, right?

      • Pete

        Yes sir and the same guy carrying a 57 wRC+. This is really, really bad.

        Since besides Jose Iglasias, Peraza is apparently the only other competent SS in the organization, I would play him everyday – I don’t think the Reds have a snowball’s chance of sniffing a playoff spot. Give JP the rope, if he doesn’t show better, the league has probably figured out you can throw him anything and he’ll swing at it. If this comes to pass, the Reds need to find a young SS somewhere with potential.

        Play Jose Peraza everyday, no matter how bad it may get. The Reds need to put out this dumpster fire, one way or another.

      • PhP

        Number of hits aren’t a good justification at all. Especially with a 5% walk rate. He’s hurting the team right now. He would be better served in AAA

  3. doofus

    Matt, your words on Reed are spot on.

  4. Pete

    Nice analysis. Question: if CR keeps up his impressive effort in the second half, could he be a candidate for the rotation in 2020? LH starters are hard to come by.

    • LB

      I think the answer that question is “maybe,” but I’m not sure I’d mess with it…for whatever reason, Cody has had a ton of issues as a starter, and iirc I feel like he’s even mentioned that he psychs himself out when he has a start…he can be a dominant reliever, and there’s value in that.

      Sure there’s more value in a decent starter, but given his track record, I think I’d personally rather take the relative “bird in the hand”

  5. matthew hendley

    Prediction: as soon as healthy, Rehabed etc. Reed is called up for one of the throw away spots, Herget etc

  6. Daytonian

    I’m with you, Matt. Cody Reed has not panned out as a starter. But he may have the tools to be an effective reliever, a lefty who only has to last an inning, where no batter sees him twice in a game, and where he does not lose anything on his fastball.

    @Pete: No, please don’t make him a candidate for the starting rotation. The Reds have other and better options there. Make Cody a candidate for a good spot in the ‘pen.

  7. Shchi Cossack

    I’m giving the Reds brain trust huge accolades for managing the need for LHP in the bullpen this season and going forward. They know that Garrett represents a lock-down LHP in the bull pen who is also capable of shutting down both LH and RH hitters. They believed that Reed represented a LHP capable of being a lock-down LHP in the bullpen who is also capable of shutting down both LH and RH hitters.

    With Garrett on the 25-man roster for the full season in 2019, he will have 2.099 years of MLB service time at the end of the season, leaving him in pre-arbitration for the 2020 season with team control via arbitration thru the 2023 season.

    Reed began the season with 1.067 years of MLB service time. If Reed was promoted to the MLB level for the entire 2019 season, he would be on the same track as Amir Garrett, with team control thru the 2023 season. Reed has accumulated just 3 days of MLB service time since the beginning of the season, giving him 1.070 years of MLB service time. Cody Reed is still recovering from his knee injury with an optimistic, but yet undefined, return date. I think a return from the IL by the beginning of August would be an optimistic expectation, leaving August and September for active status. If Reed pitches at the MLB level for the final two months of the season, he will accumulate an additional 61 days of MLB service time. Even if he returns prior to the end of July, Reed will not approach 170 days of MLB service time in 2019, enabling the reds to control his contract for an additional year, thru the 2024 season.

    Beginning with the 2020 season, the Reds should have two LHP (Reed and Garrett), capable of shutting down both LH and RH pitchers for the next 4 seasons with an additional season of control for Reeds contract.

    To accomplish this, the Reds had to resort to a stopgap effort to provide LHP assistance in the MLB bullpen for Garrett during the bulk of the 2019 season, by utilizing Peralta and Duke significantly during the 1st half of the 2019 season. The results for Peralta and Duke were worse than the Reds expected, but Reed should return from the IL soon and the issue of quality LHP to anchor the MLB bullpen for the next 4-5 seasons should be fully resolved.

    • Old-school

      With the new 3 batter rule in 2020, it’s imperative the lefties in the bullpen can get guys out from both sides of the plate.

    • Grand Salami

      Reds have drafted a goodly number of catching prospects but none are panning out quite the way one may have hoped.

      Sheldon’s latest isn’t as nuanced as Steve’s piece – he considers the Reds as Buyers or Holders but not sellers due to ‘alienating’ fan base and club house. Talk about a gals dilemma. Hopefully this piece doesn’t reflect the rigid thought processes of one Big Bob C.

      The piece focuses on back of the bullpen relievers as the move. It seems everyone knows the bullpen is getting gassed without saying it.

      • Old-school

        @GS- good heads up on the Sheldon piece. I’d like to see the reds get controllable young bullpen pieces. But, India? Better be Amir Garrett’ s twin brother.

      • Pete

        Reds are still ion last, but albeit better than the last several seasons – how offended can the fan base get? The fan base is starved for a team who can compete. Man, I wish the FO would focus on how to get in the hunt for championship baseball, personally I’m willing to suffer if there appears to be a realistic plan in place and dedication to execute it.

        I was real excited about the new direction the club pursued with David Bell and his coaches. Using advance statistics, etc. so I came back after several years of watching baseball in general without focusing on the Reds. For me, the Reds have to get their direction pointed towards building a quality organization. You know what doesn’t alienate fans: winning. Holding onto players for the primary reason of not alienating the fans and clubhouse is short-sighted and doomed for failure.

        Is this team even focused on a WS as the ultimate goal or is it keeping as many folks in the seats as possible – ironic thing is the former will lead to the latter

      • vegastypo

        “how offended can the fan base get?”

        I agree with Pete on this … I’m not seeing a playoff drive in the second half, but while that is the focus, I’m also not seeing where we’re building a winner for anytime soon, either.

        If anything, I’m “offended” that the Reds took so little advantage of their previous window to compete, and then failed to get on with the rebuild as soon as they should have.

        With so many contracts coming off the books after this season, it will be interesting to see where Dick Williams spends that money, and how much of it he has available to spend. Looking for reasons to be optimistic.

      • Grand Salami

        Got to add. That if the pen use has protected the starting 5 (health, competition, performance), then I have no problem with seeing those guys getting tired. The simplest solution seems that Bell just needs stop the musical chairs once he gets into his pen. If a pen has to cover 4 innings but you get 2-3 guys doing it all then it’s far less taxing on the unit than using 5 for the same number of outs.

        One other item – Faye/Nightengale Podcast – Faye doesn’t see Puig coming back (via extension). The Reds NEED deadline him on extension deal or move him!

        It’s an hard trade deadline after all. No more late season Broxton trades.

      • Old-school

        Pretty strong and accurate commentary from RLN. Agree.

  8. Phil

    I’m interested to see what the rule changes regarding the bullpen, in addition to managers severely limiting starting pitchers facing lineups a 3rd time, looks like.
    New rule says pitcher must face 3 batters, or finish the inning. Lorenzen, Iglesias, Garret & Reed were all starters at some point in their careers. Assuming the starter lasts 5 innings getting through the opposing line up twice, would Bell use any of those relievers for multiple innings?

  9. ToBeDetermined

    Matt

    Since brevity is the soul of wit.

    Agreed

  10. Mark Lang

    We’re gonna need more than one secret weapon (unless he’s going to be batting 3rd through 5th, too).

  11. Jreis

    The other guy I think that could be a secret weapon in the future is Big Sal Romano. I know he is not putting up the numbers so far this year but he has all the tools to be a really strong pitcher. I feel he is the pitching version of Phil Ervin. Ton of talent just having trouble putting things together

    • Tom Mitsoff

      Romano just had a couple consecutive very strong outings as a starter. They may be trying him again in that role.

      • Pete

        Sal has has career ERA’s of 4.99 (MLB) and 4.36 (MiLB). He is a hoss of a kid and is 25, now is the time to make his push or he may end up a AAA lifer. Get ’em Sal, we need you.